The digital scholar
The digital scholar

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The digital scholar

1.3  Interdisciplinarity

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Figure 3  Interdisciplinarity

Precisely because it is relatively new, there has been a good deal of interdisciplinarity in the blogosphere. Although many bloggers will tend to read the blogs within their subject area, they will also come across those of overlapping or even distinct disciplines. But also within any given blog there is an element of interdisciplinarity or at least variety. Because blogs operate at the intersection of personal and professional life, unlike a journal, their content is not bounded by discipline. While a blogger may post predominantly on a particular subject (say ‘Open Science’) they may also have an interest in other areas, for example, Haikus and Japanese poetry, which they will bring into their posts, precisely because this personal mix is what renders blogs interesting. Open Science and Haikus would not be a combination one is likely to find in a conventional journal, but when the publishing filter is removed, and the community norms promote an element of personal interest, then this kind of mix arises. For example, one of my favourite blogs is Jim Groom's Bavatuesdays [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , which mixes thoughts on educational technology and advice on the blogging platform WordPress with meditations on B-horror films. The mix seems perfectly logical and acceptable within the norms of the blogging community.

This may not constitute interdisciplinarity in an academic sense, but we can see interdisciplinary knowledge arising in at least four ways in blogs:

  1. as the formal communication platform of a department, project or individual with a specific interdisciplinary remit;
  2. through the historical context of the individual, who may have specialised in a different domain previously and can reference this in a personal blog;
  3. informal interests which overlap with the more substantive content of the blog, such as the examples above; and
  4. through comments and links from the blogs’ wider readership.

Each of these routes for interdisciplinarity would be difficult to realise through the more formal mechanisms of journals or conferences.

What is potentially significant for interdisciplinarity then is not so much the technology itself but the practices that are associated with it. This is particularly relevant with regard to openness.

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